by Daniel G. Blackburn, Thomas S. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Biology at Trinity College, Hartford
In 1925, John Scopes was put on trial in Dayton, Tennessee, for mentioning the idea of evolution in a biology class that he taught at the local high school. The trial became a media circus, and gained national attention because of what it seemed to represent—a clash of science vs. fundamentalist religion, a conflict between local autonomy and national interests, and an intellectual battle between two great orators, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. John Scopes was found guilty and fined, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality— an anticlimactic outcome to the historic conflict.
by Ariela Keysar, Associate Research Professor of Public Policy and Law and the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) at Trinity College, Hartford & Frank L. Pasquale, Research Associate at ISSSC
A solid grounding in science is widely considered to be crucial for the next generation of American adults. And providing science education to young children and adolescents is an overarching goal of educators nationwide. Yet studies show that although students are taking more science courses than in the past—at the prodding of teachers and guidance counselors—they are not absorbing much. The average science score at grade 12 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test in 2005 was lower than in 1996, and showed no significant change from 2000.
by Barry A. Kosmin, Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and Research Professor, Public Policy and Law Program at Trinity College, Hartford & Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC).
Embedded in modernity is the idea that science is a major building block of the secular worldview, and that the progress of science is, de facto, the triumph of the secular worldview. This outlook arises from the close historical, philosophical, and intellectual relationship between the natural sciences and secular ideas and values. Both secular and scientifc values were entrenched within the Enlightenment project of emancipating humanity and actualizing the highest human potentials through the diffusion of knowledge. These goals, in turn, became linked to the quest for liberty, freedom of thought, and popular sovereignty—and thus democracy. The triadic relationship of secular values, scientifc literacy, and social and economic progress, and their role as the building blocks of democracy in the United States, is the subject of this chapter. Our purpose is to demonstrate that particularly in the 21st century, in order to achieve a prosperous society and a healthy, participatory democratic order based on secular values, a high degree of science literacy among the citizenry is necessary.
by Jeffrey Burkhart, Professor of Ethics and Policy Studies in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences of the University of Florida
For decades, people in the Science Establishment have lamented the lack of scientifc literacy among the American public. Their concern reached a tipping point in the early 1990s, when educators and organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Center for Educational Progress (NCEP), the National Academies of Science/National Research Council (NAS/NRC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) began concerted efforts to improve science literacy. Despite some success, however, the Science Establishment still has concerns: Even though the percentage of degrees (BS, MS, and Ph.D.) in Science and Engineering has remained constant, and even though, contrary to anecdotal evidence, foreign-born students have not displaced U.S. citizens and resident aliens in most of the S&E programs in U.S. universities, we are again talking about scientifc literacy. Why does the Science Establishment believe that serious, ongoing efforts at promoting scientifc literacy are once again necessary?
by Juan Antonio Aguilera Mochón, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and in the Instituto de la Paz y los Conflictos (Peace and Conflict Institute) at the University of Granada, Spain
The longstanding science-religion confict continues to be a highly topical subject—for two reasons especially. First, advances in science and technology often force religion to revise old opinions and adopt new ones. And second, education is an arena in which science and religion may confict. (And it will likely remain so.)
by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Professor of Psychology at the University of Haifa, Israel.
Sigmund Freud identifed two major blows to “human megalomania”—blows that destroyed our long-held self-image as unique and superior. The frst blow was the Copernican revolution, which deprived humans of their place at the center of the universe, telling them that earth was in a remote corner of one galaxy among billions. Then came Charles Darwin, putting us in our place as part of the animal kingdom, with no special creation needed for our appearance on earth.
by David E. Henderson, Professor of Chemistry at Trinity College, Hartford
The central problem for public secularism has been identifed by Cobern as a philosophically naked public square. In this chapter, I shall pursue this theme further in three areas. These are, frstly, the problem of philosophical secularism; secondly, how the science courses I have been developing with the support of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) meet Cobern’s four rules for implementing methodological secularism in the classroom; and, fnally, how we can advance this debate.
by William Cobern, rofessor of Biological Sciences and Science Education and Director of the Mallinson Institute for Science Education at Western Michigan University
The United States is a country in which, according to the Constitution, there can be no religious test for public offce. On the other hand, we have a Bill of Rights that guarantees the free exercise of religion. We call this a secular system of government, and sometimes go so far as to use Jefferson’s phrase that there is a “wall of separation” between church and state. For the most part, this secular system of government comports well with the Christian teachings based on Jesus’ remark that one should render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and unto God that which belongs to God.
“Science” and “religion” are foundational concepts in Western thought. They are widely spoken of, and conceived of, as monolithic and adversarial phenomena. They are both, however, in the words of anthropologist Beatrice Whiting, incredibly complex “packaged variables.” As such, they are meaningful generalizations, but also misleading and sometimes counterproductive ones, rather than homogeneous realities. They are particularly counterproductive in the form, “religion versus science.” Upon close scrutiny it becomes apparent that—depending upon the defnitions of “religion(s)” or “the sciences” being employed—there is no necessary or wholesale confict between something called “religion” and something called “science.” There are, rather, particular “religious” ideas and ideologies of time, place, and culture that have conficted with particular facts, fndings, or theories emerging from the natural sciences on particular subjects.
by Austin Dacey, contributing editor with Skeptical Inquirer magazine and a representative to the United Nations for the Center for Inquiry
Dawkins wrote The God Delusion, a 400-page polemic on the irrationality of supernatural theism, and the absurdity and immorality of much traditional religion. Perhaps it should not surprise that the most commercially successful book by Dawkins is also the book worst received by his colleagues in science and science education. Although many reviewers spoke admiringly of his intellectual integrity, they criticized him for what they regarded as a confrontational, combative stance on religion.